In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action.
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail (78KB PDF) (quote sent to a Jefferson High School e-mail list)
Those of us working for equity in Portland Public Schools are on the second step: negotiation. We’ve clearly documented the gross inequities plaguing the district, and we’ve outlined sensible ways to address these problems. We’ve been speaking to the school board about this for years now, and we’ve taken our concerns to the city council.
Our civic leaders are now saying they “get it” (how could they not?), but we have yet to see any significant concrete action to “address it.”
If the school board fails to address this inequity in a meaningful way, Dr. King has pointed the way toward direct action. Will we need to organize walkouts and boycotts of our schools that have been starved by the institutional racism and classism of PPS? Will we need to do sit-ins at our more comprehensive schools across town? Do we need to draw national attention to the shameful state of our schools before the school board makes significant policy changes to address it?
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not calling for direct action right now. I’m willing to give negotiations a chance, and I think we have a reasonable partner in Carole Smith. But policy makers need to be on notice that patience is thin, we are strong, and there is a sleeping giant in the cross-cultural, multi-generational Jefferson community that is ready to be awakened.
This is not a community to be trifled with.